KABUL Hundreds of Afghans marched through Kabul on Thursday, the eve of the 10-year anniversary of the U.S. military campaign in Afghanistan, to condemn the United States as occupiers and demand the immediate withdrawal of all foreign troops.
About 300 men and women gathered early in the morning with placards and banners accusing the United States of "massacring" civilians while denouncing President Hamid Karzai as a puppet subservient to Washington.
"Occupation - atrocities - brutality," read one sign, held aloft by two women with scarves covering their head and face.
"No to occupation" said another placard, as a U.S. flag was set on fire. Another banner featured a caricature of Karzai as a glove puppet holding a pen and signing a document entitled "promises to the USA."
The rally, near a shrine and river in downtown Kabul, lasted around three hours, and ended peacefully.
Karzai became Afghanistan's leader in June 2002, seven months after Northern Alliance forces supported by the United States entered Kabul and drove the Taliban regime from power.
Karzai won subsequent elections in 2005 and 2009.
"Ten years since the invasion, all we have seen is suffering, instability and poverty in our country," said protest organizer Hafizullah Rasikh.
One picture that featured prominently was that of U.S. soldier Andrew Holmes posing with the corpse of an unarmed teenage Afghan villager who he had gunned down. He was sentenced to seven years in prison for the 2010 murder.
This year has seen record levels of civilian casualties and although about 80 percent were caused by insurgents, killings by foreign forces, tend to spark more vocal public anger.
The United States bears the brunt of criticism of the Western presence in Afghanistan.
"The bloodshed I see in this country is the result of the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. After the invaders leave, our country will be peaceful," shouted one man on a loudspeaker.
(Reporting by Akram Walizada and Mohammad Aziz; Writing by Martin Petty; Editing by Emma Graham-Harrison and Sugita Katyal)